The Rape of Lucrece Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “The Rape of Lucrece” by Shakespeare and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Role of Innocence in The Rape of Lucrece

In Shakespeare’s poem, The Rape of Lucrece, Collatine’s wife is portrayed as beautiful and very hospitable and innocent. When Tarquin arrives at her home, pretending to be a comrade of her husband, she welcomes him generously, and offers him a place to stay. It never occurs to her that he may be there for some ulterior purpose. Lucrece spends the night talking with Tarquin, feeds him, and then departs to her own chamber for the night, without so much as a guard to make sure that she is kept safe from her guest. When Tarquin takes her, she begs him not to, and implores him with words regarding knighthood and friendship—she cannot believe he would stoop so low as to take her against her will. What is Shakespeare saying here about the nature of innocence, and those who trust too easily?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Honor in The Rape of Lucrece

There are many different types of honor in The Rape of Lucrece. There is the honor that comes with being a soldier, the honor that should come with being the heir to the throne, and the honor that Lucrece has in her virtue. When that honor is violated throughout this poem, there are severe consequences. When Tarquin violates the chivalric code of honor that he holds due to his position, he brings down the wrath of Collatine and the people of Rome. When Tarquin violates the honor of Lucrece by taking away her virtue, Lucrece finds it necessary to defend that honor. After it becomes clear to Lucrece that her honor will never be restored, she stabs herself, committing suicide, and begs her husband to seek vengeance to right her skewed reputation. In what other ways is honor a driving force throughout this poem? In some ways, is Tarquin trying to defend his honor as heir by raping Lucrece and proving himself virile and powerful?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Role of Desire in The Rape of Lucrece

In The Rape of Lucrece, Lucrece’s husband, Collatine, introduces Tarquin to the idea of Lucrece. Collatine is an officer who, during a dinner gathering, begins extolling the beauty and virtue of his wife to the other men at the encampment. When Tarquin hears of Lucrece, his desire is enflamed and he decides that he must go see if Collatine is speaking the truth. In effect, Collatine’s bragging in regards to his wife ignites a fierce jealous desire in Tarquin, which eventually leads to the rape of Lucrece and the events that follow. What is Shakespeare saying here about the importance of humility and discretion? Could the tragic events have been avoided if Collatine had kept quiet about his good fortune in finding such a wonderful wife?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Role of Vengeance in The Rape of Lucrece

The role of vengeance in The Rape of Lucrece is important, although it does not become important until near the end of the poem. When Tarquin attacks Lucrece, the first thing she does is send for her husband. When he arrives, she tells him what has come to pass, and only after he promises to avenge her honor, does she name the culprit, before plunging the knife into her chest. Collatine collapses on her, and swears that he will have revenge on the man who is responsible for taking away his wife. Gathering up her body, he parades her through the streets, getting his revenge by decrying Tarquin’s deeds instead of attacking the corporal body of the man himself. Why do you think Collatine chose this method of revenge? Is it indicative of the fact that perhaps Tarquin is more attached to his politics than to his body? Is Collatine then going after Tarquin’s heart, much the same as Tarquin went after Collatine’s.


This list of important quotations from “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “The Rape of Lucrece” by William Shakespeare above, these quotes alone with page numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way.

“This earthly saint, adored by this devil, Little suspecteth the false worshipper; For unstain’d thoughts do seldom dream on evil." (85-87)

“Those that much covet are with gain so fond, For what they have not, that which they possess They scatter and unloose it from their bond, And so, by hoping more, they have but less; Or, gaining more, the profit of excess Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain, That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain." (134-140)

“She conjures him by high almighty Jove, By knighthood, gentry, and sweet friendship’s oath, By her untimely tears, her husband’s love, By holy human law, and common troth, By heaven and earth, and all the power of both, That to his borrow’d bed he make retire, And stoop to honour, not to foul desire." (568-574)

“O Night, thou furnace of foul-reeking smoke, Let not the jealous Day behold that face .Which underneath thy black all-hiding cloak Immodestly lies martyr’d with disgrace!” (792-802)

..”Here friend by friend in bloody channel lies, And friend to friend gives unadvised wounds, And one man’s lust these many lives confounds: .Had doting Priam cheque’d his son’s desire, Troy had been bright with fame and not with fire.” (1487-1491)

“To me came Tarquin armed; so beguiled With outward honesty, but yet defiled With inward vice: as Priam him did cherish, So did I Tarquin; so my Troy did perish.” (1544-1547)

“Mine enemy was strong, my poor self weak, / And far the weaker with so strong a fear” (1646-1647).

“But ere I name him, you fair lords," quoth she, Speaking to those that came with Collatine, “Shall plight your honourable faiths to me, With swift pursuit to venge this wrong of mine; For ’tis a meritorious fair design To chase injustice with revengeful arms: Knights, by their oaths, should right poor ladies’ harms." (1688-1694)

“That life was mine which thou hast here deprived" (1752).

“By this bloody knife we will revenge the death of this true wife" (1840-41).

Source : Shakespeare, William. The Norton Shakespeare. 1. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.